Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Painful Tradition!


A Painful Tradition!

The day before Thanksgiving left much for me to do between work and home but for the most part my mind was on one thought…playing football. It had been 15 years since my long time friend Joel and I started organizing our Turkey Day Mud Bowl football game and I was again looking forward to all the game would bring. So when I texted Joel about what time we were starting (which is a stupid question because we have started at 10 am every year), I was shocked when he messaged back that he wasn’t planning on playing this year. What? How could he do this to me? It was akin to him saying he wasn’t going to celebrate Thanksgiving itself.

Now Joel had his reason to be skipping our annual competition this year. He had recently had some injuries and he was trying to nurse himself back to health. But there was a part of me that was shaken to the core. Could our holiday ritual of football survive my friend’s absence? Just a couple of weeks earlier I celebrated the big 50 and this seemed to me to be a cruel joke of life shoving in my face the fact maybe it was time to quit playing. But I am stubborn and I was not going without a fight.

I really can’t remember how the idea of playing football on Thanksgiving started for the two of us. And to be honest we are an unlikely pair to be competing again each other in the first place. Joel is highly competitive AND very athletic. Every sport he takes on he competes at a high level to win…and more times than not he does. Now anyone that knows me knows I am very competitive but I don’t really have the physical traits of a highly honed athlete, to say the least. Lightning fast speed and cat-like reflexes are not the way most people would describe me. But it matters not to our game. I just make sure I choose people faster, taller and quicker to be on my team. I have no problem supplying the competitive drive or the inspiration.

Over the years I remember having a fondness for movies where the family or group of friends would get together to play a game of football on Turkey Day. Maybe it was the fellowship I liked or my appreciation of tradition. I am pretty sure my competitive spirit fell in there somewhere. But I had always longed for the chance for a regular game on Thanksgiving Day so it was natural for an annual contest to form.

Now Laura used the news of Joel not playing to remind me that it just might be time to give up our “stupid boyish game”. After all, she has experienced all the after effects of all our games over the years. There were the sprained knees, the bone contusions, the twisted ankles, the cracked ribs (my personal favorite) and of course the multiple times of throwing out my already bad back. She said she really didn’t understand how I kept up this tradition when more times than not it put me in so much pain. But this was not my time to quit. Not yet. I refuse to accept what she kept telling me…that I was perhaps TOO OLD to keep playing our yearly game.

But the reason I play is very simple and natural for me. I Like It! When I compete, I feel alive and for that time anything is possible. During the game I could throw a pass. I could stop the runner. I could catch a pass. I could score a TOUCHDOWN! I don’t have any regrets about what I did or didn’t do in school sports but it’s just fun to be able to play now. Age has always just been a number to me and I really don’t worry about it but playing football every year really does make me feel young. I don’t know why others like to play but for me it's the chance to test myself. Being a spectator has never been very appealing to me and I don’t do well on the sidelines. Our annual game is not only a very fun tradition but a small reminder to me that I like to live my life big and fun.

The good news is that Joel felt well enough to play football this day and our tradition lives on for at least another year. He and his friends showed up for what was perhaps the most fun I have had in years playing our game. We laughed, we cussed, we competed and we lived.

As I sat in my warm home hours later I could feel my back seizing up. The old, familiar pain was returning and large doses of Ibuprofen became part of my Thanksgiving menu. But I won’t complain. I won’t bitch. I will just be thankful for our annual game and my painful tradition.

It makes me feel alive!

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